When it comes to music of Washington D.C., Go-Go and early punk are probably the first sounds that come to mind. Still, GEMS — a new project from Clifford John Usher and Lindsay Pitts of Birdlips — is one of several young bands helping to shift that perception (See also: Priests). The duo’s lovely music is haunting and hypnotic with crisp Beach House-like guitar melodies, throbbing synth pads and the Pitts’ dreamy vocals. And while it doesn’t yet have a full-length record out, the band’s EP, Medusa holds a lot of promise thanks to striking pop songs like “Pegusus” and “Sinking Stone.” This is a new band already confident in its live show, and bound to fill bigger spaces soon.
The ideal way to witness Perfect Pussy is in a cramped room mobbed with fans, collectively losing their minds to the ecstatic, pile-driving fury. On stage, the Syracuse hardcore band’s set is somehow both the shortest and longest 15 minutes of unforgettable punk music you’ll see right now; an assured barrage of scorching guitars, feedback squall — and the powerful vocal assault of frontwoman Meredith Graves, who sings with an unfiltered and ecstatic rage.
Last year, the reputation of Perfect Pussy’s self-affirming live shows reached fever pitch after a string of now-storied early performances in DIY spaces — including the now-shuttered 285 Kent. Now, following its self-released, four-song demo tape, I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling, and a flurry of buzz following showcases during CMJ and SXSW, Perfect Pussy attempts to document that jolting sound on its first true LP, Say Yes To Love.
Blasting through an unrelenting eight songs and 23 minutes, Graves and the rest of Perfect Pussy — Ray McAndrew (guitar), Garrett Koloski (drums), Greg Ambler (bass), and Shaun Sutkus (keyboards) — sing with messy urgency about deeply personal topics, even when the words are largely indecipherable. From its themes of social injustice and censorship, gender politics and female empowerment, and battling the societal expectations of love and happiness, down to the name of the the band itself, Perfect Pussy is a confrontational and unapologetic band delving into some big ideas and stigmas. Yet, even amid the visceral noise and sludge, Perfect Pussy’s fearless vibrancy and honest emotion always shines through. It’s a sight to behold.
After finally catching one of the band’s recent New York shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg, it’s clear that hype is justified.
CHVRCHES’ dense electronic dance songs are mostly built around serrated computerized beats, layered synthesizers and chirping sampled voices created by Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, all of which propel Lauren Mayberry’s cute, yet commanding vocals that flutter and soars above the mix like embers in the night air. And with clean and buyoant pop hooks, CHVRCHES crafts the kind of memorable choruses on songs like “The Mother We Share” and “Gun” that can fill the club, and later, find yourself singing along to when no one is looking.
Yes, CHVRCHES is a young band. But throughout an incredibly polished 12-song set — where they debuted mostly new songs from the upcoming album that few, if anyone in the crowd had even heard, and then played a perfectly chosen Prince cover as an encore — CHVRCHES showed a confidence, both musically and in stage presence that’s rare at this stage in any group’s arc.
CHVRCHES is a promising band that seems to have arrived fully-formed, which makes it all the more enticing to watch where it will go next.